Hemlock and Old Spice


Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Like, you don’t have enough coffee to make a whole pot, but you already filled the contraption with water. I should have gone back to bed. Instead, I jogged the half block to Sylvia’s place. Aunt Sylvia. She’s only three years older. She’s my best, female friend.

There was nobody home when I got to Sylvia’s, so I let myself in and fired up her fancy coffee maker. Taking my cup of earth shattering coffee, I went out on the deck and that’s when I smelled it–the unmistakable fragrance of Old Spice–on a few seats. I went into Sylvia’s bedroom and there it was again. You could smell it on the sheets. There were probably only two guys under seventy in all of Florida who used that cologne and one was in a nursing home. The other was Hanna’s husband, which meant, if I was right, I was an accessory to murder.

I walked to the kitchen and got myself another cup of coffee and cautiously walked into the pantry and pulled out the jar of peanut butter. I was afraid to open it–I wished I had just stayed in bed. It wasn’t there. This was a new jar of peanut butter, untouched.  The weed had to be kept moist and peanut butter was the ideal medium;  also masked its odor and, it was gone.  I thought I might comb my hair, brush my teeth, shave–you know, get cleaned up for my mug shot.

I’ll start from the beginning. One day, beautiful Hanna, Sylvia’s next, best friend, shows up at my door saying she had a job for me. She wanted me to write a story about a murder. You see, I’m a writer. That’s not how I make a living but I try to get published as much as I can. Hanna warned me that the requested story was private–it could not be published. When she told me how much she would pay for it. I didn’t budge. But, when she told me she wanted to work with me on the story, I immediately agreed. Even then I knew somehow the story would come back and bite me on the ass.

Hanna, the face that launched a thousand ships, wanted a story about murdering her abusive husband. A murder that would never be detected–the perfect crime. I told Hanna there was no such thing or we’d have heard about it. Then she gave me that beautiful, big smile and confirmed my statement, saying that was exactly what she wanted. She had a point, and the most alluring lips. Her therapist had suggested such a fabrication would be cathartic. Hanna asked me not to tell anyone about the story, except, of course, Sylvia. Maybe this is not news to you but, I would do anything for sweet, Hanna.

Hanna dropped by almost every day, depending on how often she could get away from Bruce, or, Brute, as Sylvia called him. Sylvia would come by as well, under strict instructions not to distract me, so I gave her all the research duties, which was no small thing, because I was hunting for the right murder weapon.

One day, Sylvia found references to a biologist who studied poisons. She emailed her, disguising her IP address and using subterfuge and guile, got the information I needed. Then everything fell into place. Poison was the way to go. Still, Hanna wanted to bludgeon him to death and Sylvia wanted to smuggle pretty boy into a prison and leave him with some nasty, freakish inmates for a week. Sylvia had worked out some of the details. That’s my Aunt.

Poison hemlock. That was what I needed to meet Hanna’s requirements. This particular variant of the weed was found in only one place on earth, Sri Lanka,  and you won’t find it referenced anywhere on the internet. But unlike the other hemlocks it had another effect:  muscle amnesia, which slowly worked its way throughout the muscles. Timing was everything. You could regulate it to go where and when you wanted.

I edited and rewrote parts and edited again until the finished product was a 3300 word story describing the perfect crime. I wrote in a disclaimer that although the story depicted the formula for a perfect crime, executing the details would be done by humans, and humans are far from perfect. Hanna threw that part out.

Hanna seemed to be doing better since having her catharsis. The following month, Sylvia convinced Brute (probably with a baseball bat) to let Hanna go with her on vacation to India. The following week I left for Australia and the girls promised they would meet me there for sun, surfing, and real food.    India was right next door to where the hemlock variant could be found.  At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.

We were back two days and Brute could hardly wait to beat the hell out of Hanna. Sylvia went over there and convinced him to agree to divorce. I saw him a few days later and he didn’t have any broken bones so I wondered how Sylvia finally got through to the jerkwad. Better yet, an alarm should have gone off in my head.

So, there I was at Sylvia’s waiting for her and Hanna. They were not surprised to see me. I questioned the need to murder Bruce after he agreed to divorce and a fair settlement. The two of them looked at each other and laughed. Sylvia put it to me this way:

“Men.  What you don’t know about women is a lot.”

The official word came out that Bruce died in a car crash while in anaphylaxis from the ingestion of peanuts found in the Thai food take-out on the front seat of his car. That statement threw me for a loop. Bruce had a peanut allergy? Surely his wife knew that, and my aunt…?

Inspiration Monday Follow the follower @ Be Kind Rewrite
Word Count:  <1000
Prompt:  Muscle amnesia
Photo Credit:  Stock photo:  The Death of Socrates
Thanks to Stephanie Orges at Be Kind RewriteImage




When I was a kid I wanted to be an "atomic" scientist. Not anything my mother expected of me. Well, I became a scientist, just not an atomic one.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in fiction, humor, inspiration monday, murder
12 comments on “Hemlock and Old Spice
  1. Doobster418 says:

    So is there really a variety of poison hemlock that causes “muscle amnesia,” or did you just make that up to further the story?

    • Lucy says:

      Technically, it’s not called muscle amnesia, just paralysis. You stop breathing because the chest muscles forget to do their job, like curare. But curare is used with anesthesia more often than hemlock. Thanks for asking. Lucy

  2. Kate Loveton says:

    What a great way to start my Monday – a Lucy Conrad story. Liked this one ever so much – from the featured painting to the whimsical way in which a story of premeditated murder is recounted. I loved it when Sylvia and Hanna told the protagonist that there’s a lot about women that men don’t understand. How true, how true! This one was fun, clever Lucy.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Hmm. His first alarm should have gone off when Hanna told him her therapist suggested she write a murder mystery rather than leave her abuser. But I imagine he wasn’t thinking clearly with that smile beaming at him.

    A fun read, especially the line about not enough coffee at the beginning, and the sudden shock of “I’m an accessory to murder.” Great lead-in!

  4. jubilare says:

    Ooo, nice. There was only one part that tripped me up a bit:

    “But unlike the other hemlocks it had another effect: the victim lost muscle memory, causing muscle amnesia to slowly work its way throughout the muscles.”

    Three is too many times to use “Muscle” or “Muscles” in one sentence. You can get away with two, but three gets messy. 😉 Also, what was the purpose of the peanut-butter?

    • Lucy says:

      Thanks. I fixed the muscles issue. And, I clarified the use of peanut butter–kept the weed moist and masked its odor. Later I point out that hemlock is a weed.

      I do appreciate your editing skills.If you have time, check out my corrections. Thanks, Lucy

  5. belsbror says:

    Liked the way this turned out. Like the real world.

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© [Lucy Conrad] and [Sapient Chronicles], [2015-2016]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Lucy Conrad] and [Sapient Chronicles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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